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Tomorrow the Debenhams store in The Quays Shopping Centre, Newry, close their shutters for the very last time.

Manager Laura Cunningham was there at the start in 2004 and it's a sad time for all the staff after so many years together as a team.

Staff are tinged with sadness but at the same time many of those who have been there from the start are also grateful for the lifelong friendships made along the way both with staff and with customers.

Staff at Debenhams in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Staff at Debenhams in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

Even before Debenhams opened in Newry it caused quite a stir with a fire on the roof causing damage to The Quays and sending a plume of smoke through the city during building of the store in January 2004. The store opened later that year.

Debenhams has been in business since 1778 but this year it was announced that Bohoo had bought the Debenhams brand and that they wouldn't be retaining any of the stores, going with an online only model.

Originally from Tipperary, Dympna O'Connor, Sales Advisor at Debenhams has been there from the start "I lived here for ten years and then Debenhams opened and I came here the very first day, so this has been my life since I moved up really. I'm here in Newry 26 years. It's a big part of my life and my children lives as well.

The Debenhams store in January 2004. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

"I've been here since 2004. It's been a very enjoyable time in Debenhams. It's like one big family. I've made lovely friends along the way, I've seen people come and go and it's just very sad that it's closing. It's very sad for us all, a sad day tomorrow Saturday, that we have to close the shutters. It's sixteen and a half years of my life, but hopefully we will all keep in contact. I never thought I'd see the day. I thought I'd always be here, it would always be open.

"I'll miss my colleagues, the people I've worked with, and actually the customers as well. Some of the customers that we've go friendly with, that have been regulars here. I will just miss everything about it"

Dympna concludes "It's going to be hard starting somewhere else after being here for so long, hopefully I'll get something else but it won't be the same.

Manequins sit forlornly in Debenhams. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Derek Doogan, Commercial Manager at Debenhams was also there since it opened. "I opened this store with a great bunch of people, some of them are here till this day and an absolutely fantastic team. It's all about the people you meet on the journey and I've met some fantastic people over the years and, do you know what, I'm glad that it's lasted this long and I've really enjoyed it and it's obviously been our lives for the last 17 years. Now it's unfortunate that it's going but hopefully there are bigger and brighter things ahead for everybody."

Derek adds "I'll miss the people, teams, I'll miss the place, the atmosphere. Newry Debenhams has always been renowned for its Customer Service and that aspect of it we have always prided ourselves in. It's a big loss for our customers and the people of Newry."

The store will close tomorrow, Saturday at 3pm.

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